The Magic of the Vocable

This lovely little snippet on the power of little snippets is by member Liz Hannan.

Liz Hannan
Liz Hannan

vo·ca·ble … a word, especially with reference to form rather than meaning.

Think of solfeggi: Do Re Mi Fa So La To Do.

Here is how I use vocables and the unexpected magic I observe happening with the children.

To teach a new song we usually are sitting in the circle.
I begin with random movement on the beat which can be bobbing, swaying, etc.
As we continue moving I softly sing the melody with the vocable, “Ba”.
Ba is easiest for the very young and really gets their voices out.

Once we are all good with that I get them on the beat with a clap and pat.
This pattern is easy because gravity brings the hands down to the knees with ease.

Once we are all on the beat I stop, lean forward and softly invite the children to be my echo.
Then I recite sections of the lyrics one at a time until we are all good with the words.

Then we put it all together … !

During the next circle I move and softly sing the melody with the vocable.
The children guess the song and enjoy the challenge.

After a few weeks I change the vocable to Dee or Ta or whatever and they really have to listen to get the song.
At this point we are doing this for all of our songs and changing the vocable.
This is developing a great pattern of listening and recognizing a familiar tune.
They are excited when they recognize the tune with fewer pitches.

Yesterday I observed a boy and girl sitting together as obvious best friends.
The girl guessed the wrong song.
The boy put his hands around her face, moved it to his face and very softly whispered his guess which was also wrong.
They both listen and whispered to each other until they got it.
Other children began to pair up and help each other out as well.

Usually they say the name of the song.
Last week a 4 year old began to sing and we all froze while we listened.

Now they sing when they recognize the song and we all listen to a soloist.


  1. Awesome! Thank you for such an articulate description. Lucky children!

  2. Isn’t working with kids the best and most important job we could do? Liz Hannan is a treasure. I’d love to watch her in a class sometime!!!

  3. Thank you, Liz, for a enchanting window in to your musical world – and the magic one finds there!

  4. Thank you Liz, not only for the fabulous work you do with kids but your excellent ability to bring us all into your circle. I feel as though I am there with you.

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